Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park

Resilience Realized:
Infrastructure You Can Live With

Simply looking at the popular 160-acre urban open space that is Buffalo Bayou, one might not guess that it doubles as infrastructure.

Today, the park buttresses and provides recreational access to Buffalo Bayou, a flood-prone waterway that snakes through downtown Houston. The park serves as both critical flood infrastructure and an important asset to the health and cultural vibrancy of Houston.

The park enlivens what was abandoned and degenerated property beneath a tangle of the city’s elevated freeways, transforming it into a lively open space allowing for connections among neighborhoods and the river.

It took vision, courage, innovative design and strong community partnerships to pull off the transformation.

The park was designed to flood, and was even able to recover from Hurricane Harvey, the largest rainfall event recorded in US history. This before-and-after juxtaposition shows how the park has recovered.

Before-and-after slides show the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Resilience realized: one year after a 500-year storm event.

“Buffalo Bayou takes a place that the city turned its back on and transforms it into a place that draws people in and invigorates an urban center.”

– Kevin Shanley, former SWA CEO

Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park reveals the story of how a derelict drainage basin hidden beneath a tangle of highway infrastructure was transformed into a treasured parkland in the heart of Houston, Texas.  Now, this thoroughly renovated, 160-acre public space deploys a vigorous agenda of urban ecological services and improved pedestrian accessibility, with four new bridges connecting surrounding neighborhoods. It stands as a model of resilience, having been tested severely by Hurricane Harvey and emerging unscathed.

The design utilizes channel stabilization techniques, enhancing the bayou’s natural meanders and offering increased resiliency against floodwaters while preserving the beauty of this culturally significant waterway. The planting strategy reduced mowed turf by half, replacing it with riparian woodlands and naturalized meadows featuring native species. This further stabilizes the landscape, provides habitat, and uses Texan species to return a sense of place to the city. All lighting, plantings and walkways are designed to withstand the natural, periodic flooding of the bayou. The project provides continuous pedestrian and bike trails, public art, and special maintenance and safety provisions.  Buffalo Bayou Park provides access and recreation opportunities for a broad cross-section of Houstonians to experience the unique ecological character of the site.

LOCATION  Houston, Texas, United States

CLIENT  Buffalo Bayou Partnership; Harris County Flood Control District

SCOPE  Planning, Landscape Architecture

SIZE  160 acres


Press:

The Ultimate Guide to Buffalo Bayou Park

Reborn on the Bayou: Buffalo Bayou Park
Texas Architect

ULI Case Study: Developing Urban Resilience

As increasingly crowded cities search for more parkland, Buffalo Bayou Park acts as a global benchmark for applying creative design and funding to unlock critical greenspace in the heart of our communities.

Most of the time, however, Buffalo Bayou Park is just that: A park. It’s a thriving ecosystem, a place for community events, an outdoor gallery for public art, and an oasis for families, runners, dog walkers, bird watchers, and cyclists.

Approximately 44,000 households can access the park within a 10-minute walk and half a million people within a 30-minute bike ride.

Buffalo Bayou Park is infrastructure you can live with.

Houston, now the nation’s fourth largest city, is increasingly celebrated for its innovation. Its investment in Buffalo Bayou Park as an urban amenity and green infrastructure is just one example.  SWA has been working with the city on other creative ways that landscape and nature can have transformative impacts.  Contact our Houston studio at houston@swagroup.com for more information

Park 101

The ambitious Park 101 aims to cover part of downtown Los Angeles’ 101 Freeway with a multi-purpose park that will include playgrounds, seating, festival areas, and a plaza. The approximately four-block park will reconnect the two sections of Downtown that have long been separated by the freeway, greatly enhancing the currently noisy, with much-needed shade an...

Hermann Park

Hermann Park is one of Houston’s great civic resources containing a significant urban forest and many public venues. It is the flagship of the Houston Park system, serving the recreation needs of the City’s diverse population of some four million and welcoming over six million visitors a year. However, like many urban parks in America, much of Hermann Park has...

Jeffrey Open Space Park

The Jeffrey Open Space Park represents approximately 96 acres of park and trails, with an average width of 265 ft. The three-mile long spine is designed for passive uses with a network of trails that connect to residential neighborhoods and active recreation parks.

The design process included a series of community workshops to solicit community’s commen...

Shenzhen Bay

Situated just across the bay from Hong Kong, the city of Shenzhen has transformed from a small fishing town of 30,000 to a booming city of over 10 million people in 40 years – and has grown over 200 times its original size since 1980. Along the way, the character of Shenzhen’s bayfront was radically altered. Over 65 km2 of marsh and shallow bay were filled to ...

2020-05-04T21:48:04+00:00